BUCAN, Haiti (CBS4) – Nearly a year after an earthquake ravaged Haiti, thousands of survivors are still struggling to survive day-to-day. Many wonder what happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars in relief money which was raised in the months after the quake.
In Bucan, a group of volunteers make sure that critical supplies get to some of the earthquake’s youngest victims. Eric Klein and his small team make careful purchases when they go shopping for a children’s center outside of Port au Prince.
“We’ve got 47 kids, so why don’t we do ten sacks of grain, eight sacks of rice, five sacks of beans and juice,” Klein tells the group.
Klein, who’s from California, said he’s helping fill a gap left by major relief agencies which have raised millions in aid.
“These organizations need to be held accountable. I mean there’s a lot of money coming out to Haiti and you got a lot of places like this, they’ve got nothing,” said Klein.
Ben Smilowitz, with the Disaster Accountability Project, said when he tried to survey the aid organizations about where the relief money was spent, he hit a wall. Smilowitz said the 38 agencies which responded to the survey raid $1.4 billion, but were only able to account for $738 million that they spent on helping Haiti.
Carl Jean Louis said most of the aid groups stopped delivering food last spring. He said those living in the tent cities in and around Port au Prince rely on family and friends to get by.
On Tuesday President Barack Obama issued a statement on the anniversary and urged the international community to fulfill the promises they made.
As we mark one year since the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, we honor the memory of the quarter of a million Haitians who were lost, along with more than one hundred Americans, many United Nations personnel and citizens from dozens of nations. We recall how Americans, civilian and military, joined with people from around the world in one of the largest humanitarian efforts ever attempted. And we continue to be inspired by the Haitian people, and our vibrant Haitian American community, who have faced unimaginable loss with extraordinary courage and faith.
Since the first moments of the disaster, the United States has helped to rally international support for Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction and respond to new challenges, such as the outbreak of cholera and Hurricane Tomas. This global effort, led by the Haitian government, continues today and has been matched by the tremendous compassion of the American people, who in difficult economic times have given generously to help.
Over the past year, countless lives have been saved and many Haitians affected by the earthquake now have better access to food, water and health care than they did before the disaster. Still, too much rubble continues to clog the streets, too many people are still living in tents, and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough. As we have said all along, helping the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere recover from one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike our hemisphere will take years, if not decades.
So on this day when our thoughts and prayers are with the Haitian people, my message is the same as it was last year. Haiti can and must lead the way, with a strong vision for its future. The international community must now fulfill the pledges it has made to ensure a strong and sustained long-term effort. And as they forge ahead with the hard work of rebuilding their proud country, the people of Haiti will continue to have an enduring partner in the United States.